The family of a missing Edmonton-area couple has suspended their search until spring after severe weather conditions hindered their efforts.
A group of family, friends and volunteers started looking for Spruce Grove pilot Dominic Neron, 28, and girlfriend Ashley Bourgeault, 31, in the Revelstoke area on Dec. 1, days after Neron's plane went missing.
They were flying from Penticton, B.C. to the Villeneuve airport northwest of Edmonton on Nov. 25 when the single-engine aircraft disappeared. A friend reported the plane missing later that night.
Family and friends started a private search after the military suspended their efforts to locate the missing plane on Dec. 4. They scoured the area where the pilot's cellphone signal was last picked up — about 46 kilometres northeast of Revelstoke.
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The group was forced to suspend their efforts Friday after heavy snowfall made it difficult for backcountry experts, drones and helicopters to search the area.
Dominic's sister Tammy Neron said it was a difficult decision to make.
"I will never lose hope," she said. "It's just the weather is not agreeing with us right now. In Revelstoke they get a large amount of snow. Once it starts, it doesn't stop."
Couple's disappearance is now a missing persons case
RCMP have classified the couple's disappearance as a missing persons case, Neron said. Police will pursue new leads in the case, but are not initiating a ground search, she said.
Neron is holding out hope that the plane will be found. She created a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover the expenses of the private search. More than $36,000 has been raised as of Saturday.
Neron hopes new information surfaces before the spring, when the group plans to resume their search.
"I feel like our families need closure," she said. "That's why we'll be right back out there searching in the spring to make sure this plane is found."